With a number of players choosing to head to Europe to get some playing time before the expected start date of December for the 2020-21 NHL season, the Allvenskan’s MODO announced it has acquired Aleksi Heponiemi on loan from the Florida Panthers for the 2020-21 season. Of course, he is expected to be recalled when training camp begins, likely in November.
Heponiemi is one of the Panthers' top prospects. The 21-year-old was a second-round pick in the 2017 draft and played one more season with the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL, posting a 118-point season. He then signed a two-year pact with the Liiga’s Karput squad, for whom he scored 16 goals and 46 points in 50 games in 2018-19. He opted out of his contract after that and signed with Florida, playing last season in the AHL, where he struggled a bit. He tallied just three goals and 14 points in 49 games, but is still expected to challenge for a role in Florida next season.
The hope is that Heponiemi will get significant playing time with MODO even if it’s in the Allsvenskan as opposed to playing with Liiga. The forward hopes that will give him an advantage when he arrives to camp. Florida will have several significant roster moves to make in the offseason. The Panthers are expected to part ways with general manager Dale Tallon and must make decisions on whether they can retain high-priced forwards Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman. With potentially several openings on the depth chart for next season, a ready-to-go Heponiemi could force his way into the lineup with a good training camp.